Tuesday, September 27, 2011

JoCo's Artificial Heart Beats Strong



Anyone who knows me knows that my favorite songwriter is the talented geek rocker Jonathan Coulton. Famous for both his contributions to the Portal franchise with "Still Alive" and "Want You Gone," PopSci and his Thing A Week project in which he wrote, recorded, and released a song every single week for 52 weeks, he earned himself a quick cult following. I saw Jonathan Coulton for the first and only time in December of 2009 with a group of friends at World Cafe Live in Philly. Since then there have been prior commitments and conflicts, and I can't wait to get another group together the next time he comes around to our area.

Jonathan Coulton's new album, Artificial Heart, was produced by John Flansburgh of They Might Be Giants, and it shows. From the very first track, you can taste the influence. He's been pushed out of what he's used to and he's testing new instruments and generally new territory. Coulton releases his work through the Creative Commons License, so no worries about the songs being posted here. He makes a lot more now with this business strategy than he ever did as a software engineer. It's the first album he's released since 2006's Thing A Week, and it's definitely a departure from what we're used to hearing at first. It was off-putting the first time I listened to it, but after paying attention, it's one of my favorite albums by far. It's still classic JoCo, don't worry. Just a little bit different and more relevant to real life than the robots and monkeys we're used to.

So far a few my favorite songs are "Down Today," a song about new love and hot air balloon rides, "Now I Am an Arsonist," a mystifying song more open to interpretation than most JoCo songs, featuring Suzanne Vega, and the albums title song "Artificial Heart," which seems to be about the way we destroy ourselves when we kill or bury our own emotions. There's some really thought-provoking stuff in this.

Now that all the generic stuff is out of the way, on to more of my personal opinion. Jonathan Coulton has always been in my eyes an artist of many talents. This album is definitely proof of that. Thing A Week had all the geeky rocking songs about cyborgs and mountain-dwelling supervillains than I could ever ask for! I'm looking forward to any more quirky or just really geeky songs in the future, it would be wrong to feel like that needs to be every single album. This one keeps the themes of space and astronauts and robotic augmentations and news anchors going crazy, but with more songs sprinkled in that are a little more serious and as well composed, even if done so a little differently. This is really polished and I love it. Every time I listen to these songs, the more I like them. The entire list here is just awesome. All the reviews are positive, so what are you waiting for?


Jonathan Coulton with his usual awesome opening band, Paul and Storm. (World Cafe Live concert.)

Listen to Artificial Heart FREE via YouTube!

Spring for an extra $5 like I did, and you'll get a signed copy in the mail! I can't wait for mine! 
Spring for more, and you will get so much more than that. I really wish I could have gone for the biggest package.

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